More than a Diet; A Healthy Slide into Home

Lifestyle Change Meme

 

This His Loss is Their Gain campaign has helped to remind me how complicated, crazy, and ever-changing life can be. Many of the children and families that we serve in child welfare work are experiencing difficult circumstances like these when we come into their lives. It is important to remember that we can still accomplish great work, even in less than ideal circumstances.

It has taken me almost ten months to come this far, rather than the seven months I originally planned. I lost 42 pounds, and have kept it off consistently for the past 10 weeks. Even as I hover 8 or 9 pounds above my initial “goal weight,” I cannot call this anything but a success.

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If we acknowledge that life is fluid and full of constantly changing conditions, we have to allow that flexibility to our goals as well. Success comes in many forms, it is important for us to recognize those successes when they come, and to celebrate them.

I want to thank each of you for your pledges and your support along the way. Without you I do not know that I would have been motivated to get this far. I hope that those of you who made pledges and have not submitted them yet will share in my feelings of success and honor your original pledge. Together, we have done, and will continue to do great work for the children and families who need our help.

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Thanks to you and your dedication to this cause, we have exceeded our goal of $5,000. If everyone who pledged sends in their payment we will more than double that initial goal. I cannot thank you enough, you’ve made me feel so grateful to be a part of such a generous and caring circle.

An Inch from Success

The goal deadline for losing fifty pounds was Friday, July 25. That was just over a week ago and I have to be honest, I did not reach my goal. I am 9 pounds from the goal weight. Rather than attempt to starve myself to reach the goal on time, I am “granting myself an extension.” I hope that you will do so as well.

In life when you reach for a goal and you come up short, you don’t beat yourself up over it. And you certainly shouldn’t do the unhealthy, inhuman thing of trying to force yourself to meet the goal in a way that your mind or body isn’t ready for. We’re humans, we adjust.

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Always focusing on the positive, I have lost 41 pounds!

The new projected date is October 1st. I WILL lose these last nine pounds. Throughout this journey I have been trying to highlight learning points that parallel the work, even though I am aware that to compare a personal weight loss effort with the struggles to reunite families is to compare apples and horses. But as I refuse to give up even though I did not meet my goals, I am reminded of the lessons I shared with the 2014 Children’s Corps class over Summer Training last month. If a parent on their caseload is told to reach a goal by their next court date as a step towards reunification with their children, and they are unable to completely fulfill that goal, for whatever reason, I shared with the Corps members that progress towards a goal is what we have to measure, not just reaching that goal. Progress doesn’t always happen on the clock we put it on.

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If you’ve been following along and haven’t joined us with a pledge yet, now is a great time to lock in your pledge donation with us and support both my personal weight loss journey and the amazing work that our organization does as well.

Plateau and Reaching for the Goal

I continue to have a challenge in passing 33 pounds lost.

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Losing 33 pounds is a great accomplishment, but I am wholeheartedly committed to getting to 50 and reaching the goal that was set at the beginning of this campaign. One way that I will do this is participating in the Take Your Base 5k Run at Coney Island on June 29th.

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Oftentimes, when you set goals in life, you come close but don’t get there. My experience is the only thing that prevents someone from ultimately reaching all of their goals is giving up. Giving up is not an option in child welfare, even though it can be very challenging. Therefore, giving up at 33 pounds is also not an option. I expect by my next note to you in a couple of weeks to have more weight loss to report. In the meantime please continue to support the efforts of Fostering Change for Children with me and I look forward to seeing you in Coney Island for the 5k.

 

Battling Burn-out to Beat the Bulge

Here at Fostering Change for Children, we’re fired up to kick off our Summer Training Academy with 52 new Children’s Corps members ready to tackle the ups and downs of being social workers in New York City. Social work, as a profession, has one of the highest rates of depression. FCFC staff work hard to ingrain the ideals of self-care in our Children’s Corps members so that they are less likely to experience burn out.6a9abb0e0c26e290776df0f6c9563f40

Human beings are incredibly resilient animals. Equipped with the right tools, we can handle just about anything. In my mind, I try to parallel this weight loss journey that I have been on with the difficulties that parents, children and workers face in the social work field. I know that my struggle does not come close to the difficulties faced by the parent battling addiction and poverty, the child struggling to survive abuse and neglect, or the caseworker fighting for the best possible outcome for that family. But I keep those struggles in mind when I’m lounging on the couch and knowing that I should go to the gym. I remember that there are harder struggles in life than what I’m facing, and if that parent can fight through their withdrawal and the child can recover from the trauma they’ve faced then I can go lift some weights.

The parent, the caseworker, and I have to remember to breathe, revel in the positive work we’ve done so far and keep on stepping towards our goals.

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Help us all to meet our goals by pledging your support today by clicking the donate button to the right of the page, under the thermometer.

Too Many Options for Success

 

Sunlight Tree

The warm weather is finally here!

I’ve been a New Yorker all my life, so I handle the winter weather just fine, but in the summer it feels like the city has such a different energy with bicyclists and runners and street performers on seemingly every street.

When the weather breaks like this I, like most people, start to see my social calendar bursting with invitations to get together and enjoy the great outdoors.

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These temptations, loaded with work-out potential, might actually hurt my weight-loss progress. Research has shown us that having too many options as you approach a goal can derail success. If I can go for a walk in the park or shoot some hoops, I’m not only less likely to go to the gym, scientists have learned that all the options can overwhelm me and I won’t engage in any of them consistently enough to meet my goals.

This is compounded by the fact that most of these social invitations come with an eating component, a heady temptation to break my diet while enjoying the diverse array of cuisine NYC offers.

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However, knowledge is power and armed with this data I can limit my choices while strengthening my conviction to reach my goal weight.

Another high powered person with a lot on his plate utilizes this limiting tactic to focus only on what is important: President Barack Obama. Have you ever noticed that he only wears grey or blue suits? Or that Steve Jobs always wore a turtleneck? This is part of a strategy to avoid decision fatigue. I know going in to almost any eatery that I’m going to ask for grilled chicken or a mixed greens salad. Without having to scour the menu and agonize over what I should pick, I already know and can focus on the social outing instead.

Limiting my exercise options is more difficult, but equipped with the knowledge that faltering at this stage is a distinct possibility, I have scheduled several fun exercise events to take part in over the summer such as the Brooklyn Cyclones Take Your Base 5K at Coney Island on June 29. I have to remember that exercise isn’t just important because it helps me to meet my goal weight, but because of the other benefits it brings to my life.

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Halfway There!

This has been an incredible journey so far and it feels amazing to be able to say that I am halfway there! I have lost twenty-six pounds so far since we started this journey and like I mentioned in the last blog, I can literally feel the difference.

People can see it too, now. My clothes are getting too big.

FCFC started this campaign as a way to give back to all the kids that our organization serves; to feel a personal connection with their struggles and the tribulations they face.

I had an important meeting to attend this weekend and my team suggested that I should wear a blazer. I like to be the polo shirt guy; I think that if what you say is meaningful that people either won’t really care what you’re wearing or they’ll remember you as the guy who stood out because he was wearing a polo. I acquiesced to my team and put on the jacket, which swam on me it was so large. I remembered that I bought the jacket at a time when I was even larger than my starting weight for this campaign and I looked at the physical difference and thought, man, I need a new jacket.

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I know that the children we serve struggle with proper clothing: many have insufficient or ill-fitting clothing and no recourse to rectify that. In this moment of identifying with them I was reminded once again of how important this work is.

I look forward to sharing more stories with you as I continue to do the hard work needed to lose another 24 pounds. We need your help as I do though. Will you join in my commitment to children and families and make a per pound donation? Help us to reach my goal of raising $5,000 to help serve NYC children and families in need.

The Benefits of Giving Back

As I lose weight, and you help us to raise money, I’ve noticed that I actually feel better.

 

Every day.

 

I wake up with more energy, more ready to take on the world and all of its’ big challenges. So today, as I was leaving the gym, I started to wonder about why that is. And after doing my research, I’ve learned that studies have shown that people who give back are healthier, happier and even more attractive!

I’ve seen fundraising campaigns that highlight the self-reciprocating values of giving back: about how giving dollars to help education helps to reduce homelessness or that volunteering at a community center can help to reduce crime rates. Being a fundraiser myself, I’m familiar with the different arguments that can be made to ask people to give.

Your dollars help families to be supported, and to see children be part of safe, supportive families. When children have families it reduces the likelihood that they will:

  • use drugs
  • become incarcerated
  • become homeless
  • have a child also in the system
  • drop out of school
  • be unemployed

Any one of a myriad of social issues are intertwined, but I had rarely thought before about telling my prospective donors that giving money to help others will make them:

  • live longer
  • be more resilient to stress
  • have more happiness than if they spent that money on themselves
  • be more attractive to prospective mates
  • have fun
  • build self-esteem

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The New York Times had an article about this earlier this month that put it perfectly: “By investing their own time, talent and treasure, every [person] can bring his or her core principles to life.”

So, with this in mind, I encourage you to make a pledge with me. It can be as little as $1/pound I lose or as big as our imagination: Just give.

 

Balancing Act

“A true balance between work and life comes with knowing that your life activities are integrated, not separated.” – Michael Thomas Sunnarborg

As the co-founder and CEO of Fostering Change for Children, finding a balance between my personal life and my work has always been difficult. The addition of any new habits, like going to the gym, is challenging to integrate into your daily life. Even something as seemingly easy as eating healthy can prove to be an added difficulty in both my professional and personal life. When we’re interviewing the next round of Children’s Corps workers this weekend, I know that I’ll be tempted by the bowls of snacks and candy we put out for the candidates. Thankfully the organization has a healthy lifestyle approach, and there are always healthy alternative snacks on hand, like apples instead of chocolate or nuts.

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Considering that social work is one of the most stressful jobs in America, and that our organization is in the process of a national expansion, I am very thankful for the effect that fitness has had on my life. I don’t always get to the gym as often as I would like. I am working up toward a goal of going three times a week, but I’m not there yet.

I know that going to the gym allows me time to clear my head and relax. When I come back to work, or my personal life, I feel more focused and full of energy. When I’m stressing about something and I head to the gym, my worries seem to just melt away.

And they’re not the only thing that’s melting: I’m very happy to report that I have lost 10 pounds so far and am 1/5 of the way to my weight loss goal.

Make a pledge today to help us reach our fundraising goal as well so that the positive results of my transformation do not remain solely with me. Through your donations, I am happy to share those results with the children and families that Fostering Change for Children serves.

Addicted to Good Habits

 

Addicted to Good Habits Meme

 

A few weeks ago, I hosted a discussion for the New York Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers Addictions Committee.  The focus of the discussion was addressing addiction from a child welfare lens.  During the discussion, many issues around the perception of people who struggle with addiction were addressed.  We began discussing some of the current affairs in news and media that address addiction- the untimely death of our favorite celebrities, the impact on our children.

We also discussed the importance of recognizing that there are more addictions that just to drugs or gambling. Breaking the cycle of addictive actions is difficult and important in all aspects of life, and this is true of weight loss as well. Through this lens, I am aware that the crunch that comes from eating a potato chip is very satisfying and one way that I ‘trick’ my body is to find healthier snacks that still pack that crunch, like carrots. (I like that they’re orange like FCFC too!)

So with this in mind, remember that addictions are hard to break, whether to drugs, or bad television, coffee, or anything. Like me, you can start working up some healthy habits to find yourself addicted to and your body will thank you.

 

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How to Build Good Habits

 Healthy Habits

Making a transformation in your lifestyle rests first in changing the way you identify yourself. When you believe you are a certain way, it is reflected in your actions and the way you speak about yourself and the way others see you. Changing your identity includes changing your habits. But how do you change your habits?

“When a habit emerges, the brain stops fully participating in decision making.  It stops working so hard, or diverts focus to other tasks.  So unless you deliberately fight a habit– unless you find new routines– the pattern will unfold automatically.” Charles Duhigg

So what habits am I changing?

Eating Habits:

I enjoy snacking.  This is a habit that is not necessary to change, but changing the items that I reach for will support my healthy lifestyle change.  Instead of going for chips or snacks at my favorite convenience store 7Eleven, I’ll choose fruit; carrots are crunchy like potato chips, but much healthier for me.

Exercise Habits:

I drive a lot and walking from door to door simply doesn’t cut it.  I have to literally make exercise a part of my daily routine so that it is eventually as automatic as brushing my teeth in the morning. I’ve already taken the first step by going back to Planet Fitness. I am committed to working out 3 times a week or more to reach my goal.

Sleep Habits:

Being the CEO of a nonprofit organization is an eternal tight rope walk and sometimes to get across the wire means spending more time awake than anything.  My attention and productivity suffer the next day as a result.  I’m going to change this by committing to getting at least six hours of sleep five times a week.

Along the way, I anticipate some challenges but with your support, I believe I can do it.  Follow my progress on twitter @barrychaffkin #L2G #lose2gain